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2 candidates with Mexican heritage face off in AD-16

Two women — a second-generation American and a newly naturalized citizen — are the candidates hoping to fill the vacant seat in Assembly District 16.

Either Republican Reyna Sajdak, who ran unopposed in the primary, and Democrat Cecelia Gonzalez, who beat out three candidates for the nomination, will replace Democrat Heidi Swank, who is not seeking another term.

The district is home to the Strip, UNLV and McCarran International Airport.

Gonzalez, 28, said she was inspired to run for office in 2018 when Nevada became the first state with a majority-female Legislature. She acknowledges that she’s young, but is also motivated by other young people also running for office.

She is currently a doctoral student at UNLV studying multicultural education. She recently worked as a field organizer for the Elizabeth Warren campaign.

Gonzalez said she wants to make education more equitable. She said she wants to decrease classroom sizes and attract more diverse teachers. She said she wants to increase funding to education, which will require creativity during the coronavirus crisis.

To address the revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gonzalez said she wants to focus on bipartisanship, look at diversifying Nevada’s economy and offering improvements and incentives to attract business and entrepreneurship.

“We all need to come to the table and work together to move our state forward. We’re all fighting to better Nevada together,” she said.

As a Thai-Mexican-American daughter of immigrants, Gonzalez said she doesn’t see herself represented in public office.

“I live in a district that is about 45 percent Hispanic population, and our government should reflect the communities that they serve,” she said.

“I want to make sure that our community is represented in those areas, and that our community has a new perspective and passionate about the community. And I’m ready to get started.”

Sajdak, 54, who owns a real estate business, is also the wife of Clark County Republican Party Chairman David Sajdak. If she were to be elected, she would focus on safer schools, education and business, she told the Review-Journal.

“And no new taxes,” she added.

To address the pandemic, Sajdak suggested revisiting contracts and determining how the state may be able to deliver the same services for less money, as well as reducing the cost of business licensing fees for blue-collar jobs and other small businesses.

Originally from Mexico, Sajdak was naturalized last year.

“I became a citizen, and now I’m running for Assembly District 16 to give back,” she said.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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